Roadmap to green logistics

William Mitting
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

You've probably heard of 'food miles'; well, 'print miles' will soon be central to a printer's business and environmental strategies. With oil prices soaring and environmental concerns increasingly figuring in buyers' demands, reducing the number print miles can boost revenue and help the environment. Print miles relate to every aspect of the print process, from suppliers to delivery and company cars, to staff getting to work, and they all add up.

With travel comes cost. In the UK, a litre of diesel now costs £1.21 on average, compared with 93p this time last year and, with experts predicting oil to soar to over $200 a barrel, paying over £1.50 a litre may not be too far off.

The environmental impact of transport is quantifiable. Lorries emit hundreds of grams of CO2 per kilometre (the universal pollutant measure). To put that in perspective, the latest hybrid-engined cars emit around 120g per km.

There are two core factors: miles travelled and type of vehicle. In addition, the main areas to address are internal travel, supply and delivery routes. Delivery and supply grab the headlines, but most print miles come in the form of internal travel, where hundreds of miles are clocked up on a daily basis.

Is your journey necessary?
The first thing to cut is non-essential travel. David Jesson, group marketing director at Pindar, says installing video conferencing in its offices was one of its first initiatives. “We used to hold monthly sales meetings in one of our national offices,” he says. “With eight staff travelling to the meetings, 12 times a year, we have cut out 96 non-essential journeys.”

Your company car has significant repercussions on both the environment and the bottom line.

From 1 April 2009, corporation tax relief will be tied in with CO2 output. One of the most high-profile energy-efficient cars is the hybrid Toyota Prius. With emissions of just 104g per km, below the government threshold of 110g per km, a business could claim 100% of its capital allowances in the car’s first year.

Supply and delivery chains should also be scrutinised. Ask around the supply chain and check they have policies in place to reduce their miles  there are a number of proactive suppliers out there. One is The Delivery Co, a logistics pooling initiative founded in 2005 by PaperlinX Group merchants Robert Horne, Howard Smith Paper and PaperCo. By integrating their logistics, the group has cut CO2 emissions by 25%, or 15-20 tonnes per day.

The Delivery Co also cut the number of delivery vehicles by 22% ultimately reducing congestion and general wear on the transport infrastructure. Robert Horne environmental manager Tim Barker says: “For one of our customers in East Anglia that buys paper from all three PaperlinX merchants, we have estimated that The Delivery Co has reduced their carbon footprint by 4.5 tonnes per year.”

West Sussex-based HDP, part of Day International, says it also takes a particular interest in this aspect of its operations. As well as providing consumables, HDP operates a printing waste management service requiring the use of a fleet of large lorries. According to director of waste management Alan Collins, efficient use of lorries is absolutely essential. “We don’t want to send out half-empty vehicles,” he says. “That’s wasteful of fuel, unnecessarily polluting and contributes a huge number of unnecessary miles.”

To mitigate this, HDP has devised a ‘full in, full out’ system in which the company’s lorries arrive at the factory gate with a delivery of consumables and leave with a load of the customer’s waste.

Another inititative comes from Dorset-based waste management provider J&G Environmental. Last year, J&G purchased six Volvo trucks that met the EU’s new Euro-5 emissions standard for air pollution. J&G also doses the diesel fuel it consumes with an emissions-busting additive.

The same reduction strategies can be employed across the delivery chain. Neil Wakefield, environmental manager at Horner Brothers Print Group, says that reducing miles in your delivery chain requires communication with customers.

“You have to look at whether you are utilising your lorries in the most efficient way – are the lorries full? If not, re-evaluate your delivery dates to maximise space. Your customers will have to be flexible and understand what you are trying to do,” he says.

Next steps
You can go even further. When Horner Brothers invested in an eco-friendly truck, it not only chose a vehicle that complied with the cleaner Euro-4 emissions standard, but also modified the truck to meet its needs. Wakefield says: “We have made them smaller to fit the size of our average delivery.” This has also reduced drag, enabling the vehicles to be more efficient and emit less CO2 per journey.

Electric delivery vehicles boost environmental credentials. The James McNaughton Group uses an electric delivery truck to make zero-emission deliveries of copier paper into London, saving 5,164 litres of diesel per year.

‘Pallet networks’ offer benefits from outsourced delivery for consignments. Among them is Palletways, which handles around 21,000 pallets per day through its 100-plus depots across the UK. Pallet networks deliver quicker and at a lower cost than traditional alternatives. The network model also enables printers to cut their print miles. Palletways managing director Craig Hibbert explains: “Our members are local hauliers who collect small consignments of palletised freight from customers within their catchment areas. These are loaded and consolidated onto trunking vehicles regardless of the final destination and delivered to one location, our hub in Lichfield. These consolidated loads maximise vehicle use, thereby reducing ‘empty’ miles.”

There are no absolute rules to cutting print miles, but with each mile cut, money is saved and environmental credentials are improved.

Cutting print miles

  • Choose suppliers with measures in place to reduce print miles
  • Do away with unnecessary internal meetings and converse via video link where possible
  • Invest in a fleet of hybrid company cars
  • Talk to your customers and work together with them to cut wasted journeys
  • Modify delivery vehicles to cut drag and increase efficiency



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